Intermittent Fasting: Is It Good Or Horrible For Your Health?

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Rochester Marathon
Me Running the Half Marathon

Intermittent fasting is one of the hottest things going on in the world of fitness and nutrition today. It’s the latest “in” thing to do. But what is it, really? And does it actually work? I’m going to dive into the subject of intermittent fasting and clear up some of the misconceptions going on out there. Then you can decide if it’s the right choice for you or not.

I first got introduced to intermittent fasting by a colleague of mine. He’s actually the same person that introduced me to Onnit TPC, so I definitely trusted his judgment when it comes to these kinds of things. He was actually posting on the book (Facebook) and poking fun at all of the selfies and people posing with their meals and everything else. He posted a selfie where he was absolutely shredded. I mean cut like I’d never seen. I’d always known him to be in pretty good shape, but he was absolutely jacked. He posted on there that what he did was simple. Three workouts a week. A lot of walking. And he only ate between 12-8pm. That sounded strange to me. I have always been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s supposed to set you up with the energy you need to power you through your day. At least that’s what I always thought!

I was absolutely fascinated by the results my buddy was getting and the post was getting hundreds of comments about people having similar results. How in the world was this possible? Aren’t we led to believe that we are supposed to consume at least 5 smaller meals a day to fuel our bodies and increase our metabolism? I had to look into this more. This went against everything I thought I knew about proper nutrition. I have tried the small meals 5 times per day and I can never stick to it. My schedule is way too hectic to be able to adhere to that type of regimen. Especially if you’re trying to have good, nutritious, prepared meals each time. It just wasn’t in the cards for me no matter how hard I tried. So if this intermittent fasting thing had any merit whatsoever, I was going to give it a go.

My Experience With Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss
My weight tracked every day with Fitbit Aria. I cut up the middle so you can see the end results. 20lbs lost!

I looked at a lot of places to find info on this intermittent fasting phenomenon and see if there was actually any science behind it. Were there actually doctors out there that recommend it? What would my doctor say? I decided to ask him. He knew I was training for a half marathon, which was a pretty substantial goal for me, so I was seeing him pretty regularly. I never knew I would get hurt so many times from running! More on that in another post. But I mentioned intermittent fasting to him, half expecting to be laughed out of the room. What I got in return was the exact opposite. He was actually a huge proponent of fasting. He asked if I was doing the “5-2 plan” or if I was doing something else. I let him know that I was only eating between the hours of 4pm-midnight. Due to my work schedule and my lifestyle, my hours are a little different than most others. He said that’s fantastic and said I should get great results.

I was blown away. Now I didn’t need to look for some fake-ass celebrity endorsement selling me on how some movie star got cut up for a summer blockbuster by doing this fad diet. My own damn doctor said it was legit! So I went about it. My results were incredible. I lost 20 lbs in about 5 months. I was fasting during the week. I probably could have gone 7 days a week, but I wanted to enjoy my weekends with my family. I only ate between 4 pm and midnight. The only thing I drank was black coffee or water during the time when I was fasting. The craziest part was that I didn’t go all out on my diet either. Meaning I wasn’t eating pizza and wings every night, but I wasn’t cutting my calories to nothing, eating salad and plain chicken breast, either. The thing that I found to be craziest of all was my energy levels. I felt great. As I said earlier, I was training for a half marathon and my regimen was running 4 days a week, racquetball 2-3 days a week, and lifting 3-4 days a week. Obviously, the intensity of my workouts did help me with my results. But I found that if I waited to work out until around 4 pm, so I was in a completely fasted state (to get the biggest benefit from the fast), I still had energy. I felt freaking awesome.

Rochester Marathon
Me Running the Half Marathon

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

So intermittent fasting is not really a diet. It is essentially a scheduled eating plan. The idea is to restrict your eating to a 6-8 hour window of time. You do not necessarily need to cut calories while fasting, either. This all sounds like poppycock, I know, but let’s talk about some of the benefits.

Intermittent fasting has a ton of health benefits. The first one that I hear most often has to do with insulin. According to diabetes.co.uk “Insulin helps control blood glucose levels by signaling the liver and muscle and fat cells to take in glucose from the blood. Insulin, therefore, helps cells to take in glucose to be used for energy. If the body has sufficient energy, insulin signals the liver to take up glucose and store it as glycogen.” When a person is fasting, the sensitivity to insulin improves and insulin levels drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels force the body to turn to another source of energy, which just so happens to be stored body fat which is much more accessible due to lower insulin levels.

Another big benefit of intermittent fasting is that it gives the body the ability to have its cells repair themselves. When your body is in a fasted state, your cells will initiate a cellular repair process. Autophagy is where the cells of the body will digest and remove older proteins that build up in the cells. Essentially this is the body detoxifying, repairing, and regenerating itself. Check out this video:

HGH is something we’ve talked about previously on this site. Intermittent fasting can actually skyrocket the levels of human growth hormone in the body. This has tremendous benefits for fat loss and muscle gain. It also boosts the release of the fat-burning hormone called norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Add up all of these bodily changes and fasting can substantially increase your metabolic rate, or the calories you burn while you are resting, which will obviously help you lose weight.  

There are actually a ton of health benefits to fasting. I found this article (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting) to be really helpful when I was doing research on my own. And I have actually subscribed to Dr. Berg’s channel on YouTube. He really broke down fasting and the real health benefits well in this video:

So with all of this evidence that it’s actually an extremely healthy decision to start intermittent fasting, why don’t more people do it? Well, in my opinion, there is a whole lot of misconception surrounding the whole idea. I know that when I tell people that I’m fasting or that I don’t eat until 4 pm, they think I’m crazy. I have had people tell me it’s not healthy, which obviously couldn’t be further from the truth. We are all spoonfed these ideas of how our nutrition plan should be executed and that we should eat 176 tiny meals a day. It’s very hard to break the “norm” when it comes to fitness and nutrition and accepts a different approach, even one that is backed by so much scientific evidence.

I think another reason people don’t look to do intermittent fasting is that they consider it starving themselves. I’m not going to lie, it does take a little getting used to. But once my body adjusted, and I got used to the idea of not eating until 4 pm, I wasn’t hungry. I actually felt satiated throughout the day. MY cravings were gone. And I didn’t really PIG OUT when it was time to eat. I didn’t cram 5000 calories into an 8-hour window. I felt great. And I think that if people gave this idea a try, they would be shockingly surprised. Not only with how they look. But how they feel.

 

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